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Old 07-22-2011, 07:35 AM   #1
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purdytj's Avatar
1974 31' Sovereign
Tacoma , Washington
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 30
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segment removal and replacement

Greetings all,
This is my first Airstream and I consider myself 'moderately' handy, but by no means professionally trained. Interior work is going well as I removed the credenza to build a booth / dinette and the street side closet to build bunk beds for our young family.

My father and I are trying to repair damage from an accident he had with an apple tree on their property. The tree won as you can see from the photos. He did cut down the tree, so I suppose dad won in the end, but we still have repairs to do on the Airstream. The top rear curved segment, next segment down (curbside), and segment above the right rear taillights are needing replacement.

We have drilled out all of the rivets and used putty knives to break free apparently all of the caulking between the panels. We are having a hard time removing the window frame (so that I can completely re-seal it) and the panels themselves. I tugged on the top segment pretty hard and I think I saw that it is riveted to the frame / rib with rivets that are hidden by the very long top aluminum piece. I stopped because I thought I could see that I was starting to bend the rib / frame piece itself. Yikes!

My questions are:
1. How can I remove the segments without damaging the ribs and other segments? How can I get to the other rivets? We tried removing some of the interior skin (big, curved piece in back) only to find it is also riveted to the rib... No wonder the Airstreams are so rigid!
2. I've seen another thread here about NOT using the same rivet holes - can someone explain why this is beneficial in a few short sentences?
3. What other challenges should I be aware of as we put on the new segments (which I do have from Inland RV and are pre-drilled on some edges).
4. Am I out of my league on this exterior work? Should I just hire someone to do it "right" who has more experience?

2007 Silverado 2500:

1998 Dodge Ram 2500 QC-LB 4x4 12-valve
1974 Airstream Sovereign
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Old 07-22-2011, 08:39 AM   #2
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airstream4's Avatar
1997 34' Limited
1963 22' Safari
Troy , Michigan
Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 97
I am no expert, but have replaced a no of segments and even a complete rear end. The segments I replaced had the exposed holes drilled out. The panels are fitted in place and the adjoining panel slid in over or under. The over segment is predrilled and you use these holes to drill the under panel, clecos are easily removable clamps to hold panels in place, a must have! I have about 50-60 clecos. There are a number of very good threads on this, great pictures, and suggestions. I would estimate 8 hours to install the three segments.
Most of the rivets you are installing are in the two adjacent panels with no rib underneath. The main rib is where the rear panels meet the straight sides and the roof. The segments will go under the roof and side panels with the existing roof or side panel aligned with holes in rib. Drilling thru the existing hole should leave your holes aligned. I used clecos in each hole to keep alignment.
The rear segments on mine had a few rivets to hold to rib under the roof and side panels
I used a chisel to knock these rivets out sliding it under the panel from the roof or side.
I had great concerns before starting, but it only takes time and patience!
Good Luck
Troy, MI
1963 22'Safari
1997 34' Classic FK
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panels, rivets, segments, sovereign

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